Drug addiction is hard on the body in many ways, but some drugs, like crystal meth, can be particularly damaging to the teeth. The term ‘meth mouth’ has become popular due to the severe and long-lasting damage that methamphetamine can do to oral health.
The drug itself inhibits saliva production and damages tooth enamel, while the effects of and lifestyle associated with using the drug cause even further damage. Read on for details on exactly how crystal meth affects the teeth.
Dries out the Mouth
Methamphetamine reduces the amount of saliva produced by glands in the mouth. This leads to dry mouth – a condition which is both uncomfortable and dangerous. Saliva is important in neutralizing acids in the mouth. It cleanses the teeth after eating, killing bacteria and keeping tooth enamel strong. Using meth also causes dehydration, which further reduce the amount of saliva that’s produced. This can cause serious long-term damage.
The heated chemicals released can lead to severe, progressive enamel damage. Teeth will begin yellowing, with enamel flaking off and leaving teeth unprotected. Years of sustained meth use will destroy the majority of the tooth enamel . Any remaining teeth will appear brown/black in color. Large parts of each tooth will become decayed, causing irreversible damage, meaning that dentures are the only treatment option.
Meth use can cause anxiety, paranoia and overstimulation, which often leads users to grind their teeth or clench their jaw – known as bruxism. Regular grinding will cause the already damaged teeth to wear away even more quickly. Clenching the jaw can lead to problems with tooth alignment, or trigger conditions like TMJ.
Creates Sugar Cravings
Drugs like meth can cause users to crave sugary sweets and fizzy drinks, which aren’t good for oral health. Consuming too much sugar causes an increase in bacteria in the mouth, leading to decay, tooth erosion and damage to enamel. Meth users live chaotic lives, where oral hygiene isn’t a top priority. Damaging decay is permanent.
Meth-related tooth damage can be extremely difficult to treat unless the patient stops using meth. The multi-dimensional causes of tooth damage need to be treated with a combination of lifestyle changes, such as better oral hygiene, and dental procedures, like fillings and removal of badly damaged teeth. For long-time users, damage may be so severe that dentures are the only course of treatment.